Help Simplify the GST/HST Exemption for Low Vision and Blindness Aids

The following invitation is circulated as a public service on behalf of Steve Barclay of Aroga Technologies, Vancouver. Please contact Steve directly should you wish additional information. In addition, should you wish to contact your Federal MP to support Steve’s request, MP contact information can be found very easily by inputting your postal code at: http://www.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/Compilations/HouseOfCommons/MemberByPostalCode.aspx

In 1996 the Excise Tax Act, covering the way GST and HST was applied to medical and assistive devices, was changed.  Prior to the change specialized equipment for low vision and blindness was considered exempt from Federal sales tax based on its purpose of manufacture. 

A device manufactured specifically for the purpose of aiding someone who was blind or who had low vision was exempt from Federal tax at time of sale.  In provinces with PST it was also exempt from PST.

Instead of this simple exemption, which worked well for all involved the new act stated that the exemption applied for:

“A supply of any article that is specially designed for the use of blind individuals when the article is supplied for use by a blind individual to or by
the Canadian National Institute for the Blind or any other bona fide institution or association for blind individuals or on the order or certificate of
a medical practitioner”

The exemption became conditional upon someone either purchasing their assistive devices from a blindness agency, or getting a doctor to sign a letter certifying that they required specialized aids.

It is important to note that under this act, only blind individuals are presented with this requirement.  Equipment for other types of disabilities, such
as equipment for physical disabilities remains exempted based on the purpose of manufacturer.

I believe this is an unfair burden.  Many people in our country live nowhere near a blindness agency which offers this kind of equipment.  Many people would find it very difficult to go to a doctor to get a letter signed, in some cases doctors charge a fee for this kind of documentation and rarely do they have any idea of the types of aids available for their clients.  Regardless, most people do get this kind of certification in order to avoid paying taxes over and above the cost of what are typically very expensive specialized aids.  A blanket exemption, based on the purpose of manufacture, would make far more sense.  It would cost the government nothing in revenues and would eliminate a pointless paper chase.

In 2007 I began working with my local MP in the riding of Burnaby North Bill Siskay to try and have this law changed.ed.  After a number of letters to the
Finance Department and a vague promise that it would be reviewed we realized that we were getting nowhere.  Bill was planning to draft a private members bill.  Before that could happen though an election was called.  Bill retired in 2011 and was succeeded by Kennedy Stewart.

I met with Kennedy July 10th, 2012 and he has agreed to begin drafting a private members bill.

Here’s where you come in.  We believe that in order for this change to be made, we need to gather as much support as we can get. We need all parties of all political stripes to recognize that the current law is unfair, makes no sense and serves nobody’s interest.  We also need as many local MPs as possible to pledge their support for Kennedy Stewart’s bill.  It would be even more advantageous if a member of the Conservative majority government would pick this up and run with it.  Kennedy is happy to hand over the leadership of this if it will mean easier passage.

If you are willing to help by calling or visiting your local MP to help make them aware of this issue, please call me at 1-800-561-6222 or email me at steve@aroga.com.  I can provide you with information you can take with you and give you more of the background about how this section of the tax act works and how it is worded for other types of disability equipment.

Together we can make this change.  I thank you in advance for your support.

Yours truly,

Steve Barclay

Aroga Technologies Ltd.